Rafah, a town at the bottommost tip of the Gaza Strip, is a squalid place. Raw concrete buildings front trash-strewn alleys. The narrow streets are crowded with young children and unemployed men. On the border with Egypt, swaths of Rafah have been bulldoz
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Let’s be honest for a moment: the only thing I know about Willard Quine, the 20th century Harvard philosopher, is a tacit understanding of his idea of recalcitrant experiences. And, having picked it up in a casual conversation at a Thanksgiving party more than a decade ago, I may not even have that right.
The idea is 1) that each person has created a complex web of beliefs that fit together in such a way as to support their perception of the world and 2) as new pieces of information are assimilat
This book is all about Gaza, where those Palestinians live. You’ve heard all this woebegone Palestinian stuff before, too many times. What a benighted people they are, either victims or terrorists, that’s all they ever seem to be, and this big book reinforces that stereotype on every page. It’s about Joe Sacco’s quixotic one-man research mission into two atrocities committed by Israeli armed forces in 1956 – oh yeah, very worthy. Joe was offended that these two massacres had been simply beneath
So this painfully earnest book is about
– Joe’s dogged attempts to find, interview and understand the survivors of these atrocities
– Joe’s reconstruction of events of 1956
and bursting brutally into everything Joe does
– the shit that was going down all around Joe as he treks around Rafah with his Palestinian mate Abed. Demolitions, bullets flying, people being killed, day in, day out.
I think that the day to day stuff is what this book is really about.
Not unreasonably, some people Joe meets tend to say things like “What the [something untranslatable] do you want to bother with 1956 for, are you crazy? They just bulldozed my house and my mother’s house! Write about that!”
Joe encounters all sorts of stuff, including Hamas demonstrations featuring balaclava’d guys wearing fake suicide bomber jackets and holding up pix of their hero Saddam Hussain.
I don’t deny that this book is one long festival of misery and tears and you do tend to get inured to all these scenes of horror. Occasionally something gets through and jolts the reader’s composure, like the taxi driver who suddenly freaks out and yells “They killed a pregnant woman yesterday AND THEY SAID THEY WERE SORRY! Let’s do what WE need to do and then WE CAN SAY WE’RE SORRY!”
I remember my own mother, watching the tv news about Palestine, this was years ago, and she would sometimes say “Why do they treat these people like that? The Jews of all people should know what it’s like.” But the way I see it, the abused child does not grow up to be a saint, quite often the opposite happens and the abused becomes in turn the abuser. I don’t think that’s an original thought.
Joe Sacco creates beautiful, painful books. But, you know, history will teach us nothing.
This book will make you angry. It will also break your heart, assuming you have one.
In 1956, during a brief conflict between Israel and Egypt that no one in America knows about since we weren’t there and never made a TV show about it, Israeli troops raided the refugee towns of Khan Younis and Rafah in the Gaza Strip and killed upwards of 111 Arabs, most of whom were innocent bystanders.
So why should we care about ancient history? Many of Joe Sacco’s sources say the same thing as he basically goe